Long has Montreal been known for its gut–soothing greasy spoon bites: cheese curd–loaded poutine or un bon steamé hot dog. But recently the city has been heeding a global trend away from meat to greens. There is a flurry of new vegan restaurants in Montreal, sprouting in neighbourhoods such as the Plateau–Mont–Royal and Little Italy.
But even though these restaurants cater to vegans and those who favour a plant–based diet, they are attracting plenty of meat eaters, too. “We are far away from the boring salads that we used to see as the only vegan options in restaurants,” says Christian Manuel Ventura Alatorre, owner and chef of Montreal vegan sushi restaurant Sushi Momo, located on Rue Saint–Denis across from picturesque Square Saint–Louis.
Shortly after moving to Montreal from Pénjamo, Mexico, Ventura Alatorre started working at a Japanese restaurant (and yes, he ate fish at the time). But after attending yoga classes in Montreal’s Old Port and learning the merits of a plant–based diet, he was inspired to open a vegan sushi restaurant. At first, his idea was met with reservations: “It was against all the odds,” says Ventura Alatorre. “Everyone was telling me that I will only be serving cucumber and carrot rolls, and nobody will be interested. Or, ‘without fish it’s not sushi.’”
But thanks to inventive flavour–packed rolls such as kamikaze inari – containing sweet inari tofu, tempura, avocado, Asian pear, cucumber, shallots, spicy shichimi togarashi and ginger emulsion – Sushi Momo was a hit. And alongside well–established spots like Aux Vivres and ChuChai, it is inspiring a new wave of vegan restaurants in Montreal. “I love Montreal and I think the people who live here are always interested in trying and enjoying good food, vegan or not,” Ventura Alatorre says.